TOWN has been working since the start of 2017 to bring forward a scheme for the long-awaited regeneration of the Agora centre, Wolverton.
This would be the culmination of an involvement with Wolverton and the Agora that began in 2012 when TOWN director Jonny Anstead was part of a team that helped prepare the Wolverton Neighbourhood Plan and the Agora Development Brief Supplementary Planning Document (SPD), which are the two guiding documents for the redevelopment of the site.
TOWN agreed terms with Leyland Holding Company, the Agora centre’s current owner, in the autumn of 2017, for the purchase of the building. It has also discussed terms with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) for the purchase of the associated car park, which would be included as part of a comprehensive redevelopment of the site. The car park is leased to the Agora owner for use by the Agora’s customers, and is also used informally. MKC is expected to take a delegated decision on its sale to TOWN on 19th December, which would allow plans to move forward.
As part of the process of setting a fair value for the car park, it has been necessary for TOWN to agree with Milton Keynes Council as landowner some parameters for the regeneration scheme we intend to pursue, based on an indicative masterplan. This plan has been the subject of preliminary consultation with MKC, Wolverton & Greenleys Town Council and Future Wolverton. However, it is not a resolved or detailed design, and isn’t close to being ready to submit for planning. Its purpose is to inform the terms of MKC’s disposal and provide a framework to inform the design process in due course.
TOWN’s approach is grounded in the principles set by the Neighbourhood Plan and SPD, which were widely consulted upon and have the support of many local stakeholders. Key aspects include:
- reinstatement of Radcliffe Street between Church Street and Buckingham Street as a lively new shopping street, and restoring the traditional street frontage on the south side of Church Street;
- seeking to provide a replacement small supermarket for the lost Co-op, a range of other small shops and a café/workspace;
- a mix of homes ranging from studio flats to four-bed family houses, including affordable homes, custom-build opportunities and potentially specialised accommodation for older people;
- new parking spaces including dedicated short-stay shoppers’ spaces and flexible on-street parking; and
- public realm improvements to create a better pedestrian environment around the site, improve bus stopping arrangement and potentially release additional car parking.
What happens next?
If the Council decides to sell its car park to facilitate the comprehensive regeneration of the Agora site, work on a planning application will begin in Spring 2018. There will be a full process public involvement, and TOWN will work with key stakeholders including Wolverton and Greenleys Town Council and Future Wolverton to make this engagement as broad as possible. We’ll aim to submit a planning application in autumn 2018, which – if approved – would allow work on site to commence in mid-2019.
We know from long involvement with the site how important the regeneration of the Agora is to Wolverton and how invested local people are in it being done well. Until the legal process of acquiring the site is completed and work on the scheme starts in earnest, it will be difficult for us to answer fully all the questions people may have about particular aspects of the intended scheme or how the transition from current to future uses will be managed and phased. However, during that period we will aim to be as open and transparent as we can be – by posting regular updates on this blog, and by keeping in regular contact with the community’s representatives on the Town Council and Future Wolverton.
A note on parking
One point we do want to address briefly here, because we’ve been asked about it a lot in recent days, is car parking and specifically concerns about the possible effects of the redevelopment of the Agora car park on Wolverton town centre.
We recognise that even though the Agora car park is technically restricted to uses of the Agora centre, this is not enforced and it has customarily been used as a general town centre car park. Whilst it is only lightly-used at most times, there are specific peaks during the week when it is used heavily.
We believe that reinstating street frontage along the length of Church Street – as used to be the case and as is discussed in the SPD – is important to successful regeneration, particularly to creating a more welcoming gateway to Wolverton town centre. This would mean redeveloping the car park.
The SPD states that adequate car parking must continue to be maintained, whether in the form of a dedicated car park or through provision of adequate car parking spaces to meet local need in other ways. It also requires a detailed survey of parking to be undertaken to inform any planning application. TOWN will fulfil these requirements before any planning application is submitted.
The indicative scheme discussed above shows a net increase in the overall number of parking spaces compared with the existing car park. Some of these would be for dedicated residential use, but many would be flexible spaces available for use for different purposes at different times of day – as is characteristic of streets across Wolverton.